When it comes to detecting oral cancer, timing is essential. According to WebMD, the overall 5-year survival rate for patients with an early diagnosis is 84%. Unfortunately, the survival rate falls if cancer has spread before being diagnosed. That’s why awareness of the possible signs and symptoms of oral cancer is so important. Early detection can save your life.
Identifying Oral Cancer
Oral cancers include the mouth, lips, tongue, cheeks, mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and throat. Like so many other forms of cancer, they can be life-threatening, so early diagnosis is vital. Your dentist and dental hygienist look for signs of trouble as part of your routine dental checkup. Therefore, by keeping your regular dental visits, you can protect yourself against oral cancer.
Being aware of the possible red flags for oral, tongue, or mouth cancer gives you another layer of protection. It allows you to make an appointment with your dentist and bring any concerns to their attention immediately.
Signs and symptoms could include the following:
- Mouth ulcers or sores that don’t heal.
- Velvety patches of red or white.
- A chronic sore throat or the feeling that something is stuck in the throat.
- Hoarseness or a change in voice.
- Loose teeth.
- Unexplained tenderness or numbness.
- A lump, thickening, or rough spot in the mouth’s lining or gum.
- Swelling in the jaw.
- Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue.
- Pain when moving, swallowing or chewing.
- A change in bite.
- Dentures or dental appliances no longer fit correctly
- Ear pain.
- Dramatic weight loss.
When to Seek Treatment for Oral Cancer
Experiencing one or more of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have oral, mouth, or tongue cancer. It simply means that you have cause for concern that should be investigated by a professional as soon as possible. Contact your dentist if you notice any of these symptoms, especially if they persist for more than two weeks.
Your treatment will depend on your situation. In some cases, your dentist may take a wait-and-see approach. They may ask you to return in a couple of weeks because they want to see if the damaged tissue will heal in that time. In other cases, they may send off tissue samples and take imaging studies to gather more information. If cancer is present, then you will be referred to specialists for cancer treatment. Like other cancers, treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these therapies. The treatment plan will depend on your unique circumstances. Your doctors will review your case and discuss your treatment options with you.
At Wekiva Dental, each dental cleaning includes a mouth cancer screening. We firmly believe in preventative care and strive to keep our patients healthy. Wekiva Dental is committed to nurturing healthy smiles and positive relationships with our patients. If you have any worries about your oral health, including concerns about oral cancer, our friendly, knowledgeable team is ready to assist you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.